Eleven new Court Appointed Special Advocate ( CASA ) volunteers sit in on child placement hearings in Judge Ed Klein's court. They'll eventually be serving the best interest of children. The ones who are allegedly victims of abuse and neglect.
There are lots of East Texas children needing their assistance, but the CASA volunteers could be asked to serve West Texas children from the polygamy camp. All 462 children are now in foster homes across the state. Some homes are as far away as Houston. Nacogdoches CASA director Rebecca Carlton said, " Our volunteers may be doing courtesy visits for these children. " Texas CASA is developing policies and procedures on how local casas may be involved. As of yet, Nacogdoches CASA has not received a formal request for help. If asked, the volunteers are willing. CASA John Thompson said, " And do whatever is in the best interest of the children and act in the best interest of the children."
Veteran CASA volunteer J.R. Wright would serve, if called. Yet, he's wiser about the workload facing staffers and volunteers, even before 462 kids were added to the mix. Wright said, " That suddenly adds to the load for CPS. We don't have enough CASA's to look after those, I'm sure, out there. So that's gonna be a burden and it's something I don't have any idea how we're gonna deal with. "
Carlton guides CASA volunteers through heartbreaking cases every week. She's for helping all kids, but admits a frustration when individual cases go unnoticed. " There are 400 and something children that are, have come to the attention of the country, probably the world, that are being abused and neglected, allegedly, and that's going on every day here in Nacogdoches and it's frustrating all the time for the CASA volunteers, for CPS workers, for all of us because it's always this way and it's just one child at a time, as opposed to a group of 400," said Carlton.
Some of that can be blamed on the system itself. Attorneys and advocates won't or can't talk publically about what they know. CASA Tracye Brittain said, " Some of the things that I'm hearing are just horrible, so that's the hard part and most frustrating thing is having to hold everything inside."
Open record documents reveal a lot. Perhaps they should be noticed. Casa Wilma Cordova said, " I don't think people realize what children are up against in our society, unfortunately, Nacogdoches County. I think there needs to be a lot more awareness."